In 2002, more than two and a half bombs' worth of highly enriched uranium (HEU) was stored in a civilian research reactor with inadequate security in Vinca, Serbia, near Belgrade, vulnerable to theft by terrorists. U.S. officials wanted the material protected and turned to NTI for help.
NTI worked closely with the U.S. Department of State, the IAEA, Russia and Serbia to facilitate the transfer of more than 100 pounds of weapons-usable nuclear material in the form of fresh reactor fuel to more secure storage in Russia for elimination through blend down. NTI’s contribution of $5 million also supported the repackaging and removal of 2.4 tons of highly radioactive spent reactor fuel for ultimate transport and disposition in Russia. The decommissioning of the reactor also was achieved through the project.
News of the operation on the front page of The Washington Post brought fresh attention to the threat, spurring the U.S. Government to create the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which has since repatriated more than 40 nuclear bombs’ worth of HEU from dozens of countries.
NTI Co-Chairman Ted Turner called Project Vinca “an example of how governments, the private sector, and international organizations can work together to find innovative and effective solutions to make the world safer.”
The project also left a proud legacy of more collaborative cleanout efforts in Romania, Bulgaria, Uzbekistan, and the Czech Republic. In addition, the U.S., Russia, and the IAEA developed a schedule where by all Soviet-origin fresh HEU will be returned to Russia.